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Red Rock Canyon State Park Guide — Hiking, Camping, and More 

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

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Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
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Red Rock Canyon State Park boasts stunning flora and fauna, an intriguing natural and cultural history, and geologic formations that will leave you mesmerized. Although this park may not receive as many visitors as some of its neighboring attractions, it’s worth exploring its magnificent wonders.

How To Get to Red Rock Canyon State Park

Where Is Red Rock Canyon State Park?

Red Rock Canyon State Park is at the western edge of the El Paso Mountain Range, where it meets the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This park covers over 27,000 acres of desert landscape and boasts mesmerizing rock formations. It’s about 25 miles northeast of Mojave, California, and less than a 2-hour drive from Los Angeles.

Nearest Airports to Red Rock Canyon State Park

The most convenient airport for this state park is Meadows Field Airport (BFL) in Bakersfield, California. It takes approximately an hour and a half to reach the park from this airport. Although small, it offers nonstop flights to various cities in the U.S., including Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, and San Francisco. Airlines, including American and United, service the airport. After arriving here, you can easily arrange a rental car to complete the final leg of your journey to the park.

Driving to Red Rock Canyon State Park

This state park is about 25 miles northeast of Mojave on Highway 14 near Cantil, California. If you’re driving to the park, drive west for about a quarter of a mile onto Abbott Drive, and you will see signs indicating the turnoff to the park. The park is on Highway 14.

Taking the Train to Red Rock Canyon State Park

No train service goes directly to the park. However, you can take Amtrak to get relatively close to it. Amtrak provides service to Bakersfield, around 78 miles from the park. From there, you can arrange a ride-share service or rent a car to complete the rest of the journey to the park. Reaching the park from the station usually takes about an hour and 15 minutes.

Hot Tip:

Although ride-shares and taxis can get you to the park, it may be difficult to get a ride back due to limited cell service.

Taking the Bus to Red Rock Canyon State Park

There is no direct bus service available to Red Rock Canyon State Park. However, there is an option that can get you close. Greyhound offers a line that drops off at Mojave. From the station, it is only a 22-minute drive to the park. You can use a rental car, taxi, or ride-sharing service to get to the park from there, but remember that cell service is limited, and getting a ride back might be difficult.

Getting Around Red Rock Canyon State Park

Driving is the most convenient mode of transportation for exploring the park. The main road offers multiple stops to admire the park’s highlights.

Hot Tip:

The park provides a printable map to help you plan your visit and navigate throughout the park.

What To See and Do in Red Rock Canyon State Park

This park has something for everyone, including hiking trails, horseback riding, and interpretive programs. It’s the perfect destination for nature enthusiasts, history buffs, or anyone looking for a fun day out with family and friends.

Hiking Trails

Red Rock Canyon State Park Hiking
Image Credit: Brian Baer via California State Parks

Red Rock Canyon State Park in California offers numerous hiking trails for nature lovers and hikers. The trails provide stunning views of the park’s geological features, including Turk’s Turban and Camel Rock. The Hagen Canyon Nature Trail and Red Cliffs Nature Trail are 2 of the most popular trails in the park.

The Hagen Canyon Nature Trail is a 2.2-mile trail that takes you through a beautiful canyon, allowing you to see the park’s flora and fauna up close. The trail is rated as easy, making it perfect for novice hikers. On the other hand, the Red Cliffs Nature Trail is a 1-mile loop trail that takes you through impressive red rock formations. This trail is also easy and is perfect for families with children.

Horseback Riding

Red Rock Canyon State Park is a great place for horseback riding. You can ride your horse on all park roads except for some areas with seasonal closures. Horses are not allowed in the campgrounds. The park’s stunning rock formations are a must-see, and viewing them on horseback is an unforgettable experience.

Interpretive Programs

Red Rock Canyon State Park offers a wide range of interpretive programs that educate and entertain visitors. These programs include presentations on desert animals by expert guest speakers, nature walks, talks on geology, star parties, and guided history walks. Participating in these events is an excellent way to learn about the park’s natural and cultural history and interact with knowledgeable staff.

Visitor Center

Red Rock Canyon State Park Visitor Center
Image Credit: Brian Baer via California State Parks

The Red Rock Canyon State Park visitor center is an excellent place to start your adventures. You can explore various exhibits showcasing the park’s flora and fauna and cultural exhibits. Most park programs are held at the center, and it’s a perfect spot to cool off from the desert heat.

Wildflowers

The wildflowers at Red Rock Canyon State Park are a sight to behold. Every spring, the park is transformed with vibrant shades of pink, yellow, and purple. Monkeyflowers, goldfields, fiddleneck, and dandelions are just a few wildflower types that can be seen here.

Hot Tip:

The best spots to catch a glimpse of these beautiful blooms are Hagen Canyon and along the Desert View Trail.

Best Times To Visit Red Rock Canyon State Park

Red Rock Canyon State Park is a spectacular place to visit any time of the year. Certain times are better than others to plan a trip here, especially if you are hoping to participate in a particular event or activity.

Best Time To Visit Red Rock Canyon State Park in Winter

Many visitors prefer to visit this state park in winter to avoid the extreme heat. For those visiting this time of year, December is the perfect month, as it’s the driest winter month. Keep in mind that temperatures can drop significantly during this month, ranging from the mid-20s to the upper 40s. Pack accordingly and bring warm clothing to stay comfortable during your visit.

Best Time To Visit Red Rock Canyon State Park To Avoid the Crowds

Exploring this park alone is a tranquil experience. The best time to visit with minimal crowds is November, the least popular month for tourists. A November visit will allow you to explore the park at your own pace without dealing with crowded areas, long lines, and heavy traffic.

Best Time To Visit Red Rock Canyon State Park for Wildflowers

Red Rock Canyon State Park Wildflowers
Image Credit: Brian Baer via California State Parks

The wildflowers at this state park are a breathtaking sight. If you plan your visit for late March, you can catch them at their best. That’s when the vibrant colors start to appear, dotting the fields and paths throughout the park with bright pops of yellow, pink, and purple. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the gorgeous colors that speckle the park grounds.

Cheapest Time To Visit Red Rock Canyon State Park

For budget-conscious travelers, the best time to visit this state park is from early to mid-September, when flights and accommodations are at their lowest throughout the year. A September visit holds the potential to save hundreds of dollars in travel expenses.

Annual Events in Red Rock Canyon State Park

Red Rock Canyon State Park offers various programming and events throughout the year. These include star parties and guided tours focused on wildlife and nature. Currently, no events take place annually at the park.

Where To Stay in Red Rock Canyon State Park

When planning a vacation, one of the most important things to consider is accommodations. Fortunately, there are several options available both within and near the state park.

Inside the Park

Red Rock Canyon State Park Camping
Image Credit: Brian Baer via California State Parks

Within the park, the only lodging option available is outdoor camping. The Ricardo Campground is the only developed campground in the area. It offers 50 primitive camping sites that come with potable water, fire rings, tables, and pit toilets. Each site can accommodate up to 8 campers at a time. These sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and no reservations can be made in advance.

Hot Tip:

The campground tends to get full quickly, especially on weekends in the spring and fall, so arriving early is recommended.

Towns Near Red Rock Canyon State Park

There are many small towns and large cities just a short drive away from Red Rock Canyon State Park, offering various accommodation options to suit your needs and budget.

California City, California

California City is just a 15-minute drive away from Red Rock Canyon State Park and provides a wide range of lodging, dining, and recreation. This large city offers numerous upscale hotels, resorts, and private rentals to choose from. Food lovers are in for a treat, as there is an abundance of restaurants serving various cuisines, including seafood, pizza, and home-cooked favorites. Additionally, tourists can explore and observe wildlife in several parks and natural areas.

Mojave, California

Mojave is about 25 miles away from the park, making it an excellent choice for a home base when exploring the area. This city has a fascinating history, and it offers various accommodations, dining establishments, and places to visit. The majority of lodging facilities in Mojave are budget-friendly motels and hotels. Dining options include a mix of chain restaurants, fast-food joints, and locally-owned diners. For recreation, visitors can explore several history museums, historic parks, and hiking trails through the Mojave Desert.

Ridgecrest, California

For those seeking a more comprehensive range of amenities, Ridgecrest is the closest major city, approximately 40 minutes away from the park. Ridgecrest offers a multitude of restaurants and leisure activities and has a diverse range of lodging options, from budget-friendly motels to luxurious resorts. Visitors can enjoy various dining establishments, ranging from local cuisine to international fare.

Where To Eat in Red Rock Canyon State Park

Although there are no restaurants within the park boundaries, visitors can find plenty of eateries nearby to satisfy their cravings.

Ale’s Steakhouse and Bar

Ale’s Steakhouse and Bar is a restaurant in Ridgecrest, California, which can be reached within 34 minutes from the park. It provides various menu items such as appetizers, steaks, seafood, burgers, and a full bar. The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner, except on Sundays. You can enjoy your meals either indoors or outside on the patio.

Gloria’s Mexican Restaurant

Gloria’s Mexican Restaurant is in California City, which is approximately a 15-minute drive from the park. It is one of the highest-rated area restaurants that offers authentic Mexican cuisine for both lunch and dinner. The menu highlights classic Mexican dishes, including burritos, fajitas, nachos, and, of course, homemade margaritas.

Red Rock Canyon State Park Facts

Red Rock Canyon State Park
Image Credit: Brian Baer via California State Parks

1. It Was Established in 1968

Red Rock Canyon State Park was established in 1968. It was the first state park to be created in Kern County, California.

2. The Kawaiisu Originally Inhabited the Park

The Kawaiisu are native people who were the original inhabitants of this area, having lived here for 10,000 years. The land provided them with food, water, and various rocks that were used to make weapons. The Kawaiisu refer to this region as the “area with rocks on fire.” The park is considered a sacred site by the Kawaiisu elders, and the park authorities work diligently to preserve the cultural resources left by these people.

3. The Park Has Gold Mines

During the gold rush of 1850, Red Rock Canyon State Park was occupied by gold miners who were searching for gold. The park is home to numerous mines, and Last Chance Canyon received its name because it was one of the last locations in California where gold could be mined. Around $16 million worth of gold was estimated to be extracted from this park.

4. Monsoon Season Is in the Summer

Red Rock Canyon State Park receives approximately 4 inches of rainfall each year, mainly during the summer monsoon season.

5. Lights, Camera, and Action Have Visited the Park

Many Hollywood blockbusters have been filmed in Red Rock Canyon State Park. Some notable titles include “The Outlaw,” “The Big Country,” “The Ten Commandments,” “Westworld,” and “Jurassic Park.”

Final Thoughts

Red Rock Canyon State Park is a wonderful destination to explore. With stunning rock formations, a fascinating natural and cultural history, and amazing hiking trails, there is something for every visitor to enjoy here. Despite being one of the most underrated parks in California, it has so much to offer.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to visit Red Rock Canyon State Park?

The fee for visiting Red Rock Canyon State Park is $6 per vehicle.

How much time should I spend in Red Rock Canyon State Park?

It’s best to allocate 2 hours to half a day for exploring Red Rock Canyon State Park. This will provide ample time for hiking the trails, participating in an interpretive program, and enjoying a picnic amidst the breathtaking scenery.

What attractions should I check out near Red Rock Canyon State Park?

There are many places to visit close to the park, each providing exciting opportunities in nature. Some of the main points of interest near Red Rock Canyon State Park include Fossil Falls, Pinnacles National Park, and Sequoia National Forest.

Can I fly my drone in Red Rock Canyon State Park?

Flying drones is prohibited in Red Rock Canyon State Park.

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About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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